Have you ever had a panic attack? If so, have you wondered where it comes from? A panic attack (or anxiety attack) is an extreme version of the fight or flight mode. We detect some sort of a danger and our body reacts in a way so it can react to that danger. In reality, of course, there is nothing dangerous.
When a panic attack occurs, we tend to lose the control of our body. Our pulse goes crazy, we start to breathe very fast and we feel a huge amount of anxiety rushing towards us. Our body is at war with something. Some dizziness can occur because of the fast breathing and that creates even more anxiety.
In those moments we need to reassure ourselves that we’re in a safe environment and we also need to try to keep doing whatever we were doing. Running away is not an option because since a panic attack is temporary, it will pass once we leave that environment. However, we subconsciously link leaving the environment with the “fix” for that panic attack and in the same time we’ll link the original environment with the panic attack and this increases the chances for the next time to have a similar reaction in a similar environment.
Besides reassuring ourselves that we’re in a safe place, we need to concentrate on our breathing. How we breathe is the key in an anxiety attack because it controls our pulse as well so breathing slowly will decrease our pulse and the attack is not an attack anymore. This can be done by breathing in for 5 seconds and breathing out for another 5 seconds (as advised here). This will help us get in control of the level of oxygen that goes through our body and reducing it will leave the muscles with less power so the tension will slowly go away.
Since I know that real life is totally different than the theory due to the emotions involved, maybe is it worth to prepare a safety card to read in those moments of crisis (a piece of paper with the instructions)? It’s easier to read something than to think about something when the attack occurs.
Have you ever had a panic attack? What strategies did you use to deal with it?